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Initiative for Vocational Inquiry: VESO--Vocation, Ethics, and Society

Initiative for Vocational Inquiry--Millsaps College

The interdisciplinary minor in Vocation, Ethics, and Society (VESO) helps students explore their intended careers and round out their education by integrating coursework from many disciplines with hands-on experiences. VESO minors take a gateway course (Work, Ethics, and Society), engage in multidisciplinary coursework, complete two internships with accompanying discussion courses, and construct a portfolio explaining the development of their thought and gathering documents to take with them post-graduation. VESO minors may also apply for funding for an Exploration Trip to go to a location or attend an event beyond campus that will contribute to their course of study. Here are a few examples of internships and exploration trips VESO students have taken in the past few years. 



Laila Jamila at Stanley Family Dental (2018): "I completed my first internship at Stanley Family Dental. I got to observe dental hygienists, a dentist, and a dental assistant thanks to VESO and the friendly staff at the dental office. Before interning there, I had never observed the process of extracting teeth, capping root canals, or filling cavities. Although I was more comfortable watching cleanings, it was fascinating to see the different aspects of the dental field come together. My internship was primarily observatory. If I was asked to assist, I either keyed in Periocharts for the hygienists or occasionally helped suction on a willing patient. In our downtime, I would ask the staff anything I wanted to know more about. The questions typically regarded what schooling or training they completed to get to their current profession. Through VESO I was able to receive credits while getting first-hand experience in a field I am interested in."

Leslie Norris at Bluff Park United Methodist Church (2018): “This summer was the busiest yet most rewarding summer of my life, all thanks to VESO! I had just been offered the position as a youth group intern at my home church, Bluff Park United Methodist, and was searching for a way to simply make my internship count for credit hours when Dr. Poe informed me about the VESO program. Soon after our conversation, I realized that gaining credit hours was the least beneficial thing about VESO. This program encouraged me to adopt a new perspective on the work I was doing this summer. At my internship, I would do things like post on social media, send out reminders, reach out to students, prepare for youth group events, help out on mission trips, plan ways to help us transition into a newly built youth wing, and attend meetings with staff members of our church and other churches. Because of the guidance of the VESO minor, I did not view these responsibilities as simply things to get done and check off a list. Instead, I used even the smallest of duties to intentionally reflect on my calling. I developed meaningful relationships with everyone around me, learned more about myself, gained valuable experience, and hopefully helped out some youth in the process.”

Jenna Mitchell at Shriner’s Hospital for Children (2018): “This summer, through the VESO minor, I had the privilege to complete an internship at Shriner's Hospital for Children. My first day at the internship Dr. Magee, the plastic surgeon whom I worked with, explained to me that Shriner's was somewhat of a fantasy land as they treat children with a variety of problems for free. The children I worked most closely with were those with cleft palates, cleft lips, burns, orthopedic complications, and a wide range of deformities. I was able to observe five different surgeries, at least one from each category I previously listed. Along with shadowing Dr. Magee, I worked in the Child Life department where I essentially helped comfort and distract both the patients and their siblings with an assortment of activities such as crafts. On top of this, I had regular conversations with my supervisors about the ethics within the work they do every day that stretch beyond the confines of the one facility in Los Angeles, as many patients come from Mexico and other states as well. This internship strengthened my ability to interact in a medical environment, which is incredibly important since I am on the Pre-Med track. The VESO minor encouraged me to seek out this opportunity my freshman year, which gives me three more years to find even more opportunities to continue to explore my future and the ethics within the work I hope to do.”

Sarah Altman at Operation Shoestring (2017): Sarah’s internship with students at Operation Shoestring was also in fulfillment of her Ford Fellowship with her mentor, Dr. Rachel Heard. This fellowship was intended to teach Sarah how to teach piano on all levels, and the VESO internship gave her the students from the community to practice the skills she had gained. She held a weekly group piano class for 6 students. They learned many of the basics of music and of piano playing, in addition to creating a community of students interested in pursuing music. In doing so, Sarah discovered the aspects of teaching that she was not willing to sacrifice--such as that engagement with the practicing and music-making process is far superior to perfectionism. She hopes that this experience will help inform future VESO and other community-engaged students, as well as future piano pedagogy students.

Sarah Altman at Millsaps College (2017): Sarah’s internship helped her decide whether to pursue a career as a professor of elementary education. She worked with her mentor, Dr. Julie Rust, on a research project to present at an academic conference in St. Louis in the fall of 2017. In addition, she sought other perspectives in this field of study from around the city and the state. She conducted interviews with literacy education professors from around the nation. She also began research with a former community partner and Dr. Rust for publication about a community engaged project and how to better prepare preservice teachers for disassembling and reassembling their identities in response to difficult contexts. These many projects occurring simultaneously alludes to a well-known and difficult to master aspect of professor life: lots of irons in the fire. 

Kelsey Stone at Echo Park United Methodist Church 

Kelsey Stone at Echo Park United Methodist Church (2017): Kelsey was an Urban Intern at Echo Park United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA. Over the summer in 2017, they developed a curriculum for Echo Park UMC's Peace Camp - a week long day camp modeled after another local UMC congregation's month long Peace Program. Kelsey worked with some basic curriculum provided by that other church, but also adapted and created their own focus and theme in approaching issues such as nonviolence communication and conflict resolution. Kelsey teamed up with local organizations to provide workshops for the kids, as well as advertise and spread word about the Peace Camp. When the Peace Camp occurred during the first week of August, Kelsey served as the yoga & meditation instructor, as well as a teacher in the camp.

Kelsey Stone at Human Rights Campaign 

Exploration Trips 


Isabelle Dillard in Seattle (2018): "Over the last four years at Millsaps, I have become increasingly interested in food as an issue of justice. Contemporary food problems--from food insecurity within vulnerable communities to unsustainable industrial farming practices--became key academic and personal issues on my mind. Through the VESO minor, I was able to explore these injustices further by attending a Food Tank Summit in Seattle, Washington called Growing Food Policy. At this conference, I learned about incredible work being done to alleviate hunger, foster more environmentally friendly agricultural practices, and defend workers' rights within the food industry. Not only did I gain a broader understanding of what food policy is, I was also exposed to a wide range of professionals that work with these issues: activists, farmers, politicians, nonprofit organizers, ecologists, chefs, and more. This inspired me to further contemplate which aspect of this important movement I may be called to join. Furthermore, traveling to the Pacific Northwest for this experience also gave me the opportunity and perspective to reflect on the unique challenges that Mississippi and the south at large face. Attending this conference ultimately inspired me to bring what I learned back to the deep south, where I plan to live and work after college. In my own vocational journey, I hope to pursue this meaningful work within the food justice movement, a goal further clarified by my VESO exploration trip."

Sarah Altman in Memphis, Tennessee (2018): "As my time at Millsaps wound down, I felt a combination of steadiness and anxiousness. I had firmly discovered that music in the academy is my pursuit in life: 'I will be Dr. Sarah of Music'. Yet I had an itch of ambition left to be spent before I got out of my undergraduate studies. So I took a VESO Exploration Trip up to Memphis with the question in mind 'where will I go for graduate work?' I wanted to know if a true city would serve well as a backdrop for my studies. While there, I explored the plentiful and diverse neighborhoods, dropped into plenty of coffee shops, toured around the University of Memphis. I got a small taste of the flavor of this river city. Though I still do not know precisely where I will be, I do know that as a true adult student, I will want to be planted in a place with as much diversity, history, and adventures to be had as Memphis has to offer."


Kelsey Stone in New York and Boston (2017): “I had the opportunity to travel to New York and Boston for my VESO exploration trip. Since I’m exploring graduate school in religious studies as a possibility after I graduate, I engaged in inter-religious dialogue at a graduate school I visited. In Boston, I attended the American Academy of Religion conference (AAR). There, I attended panels and presentations on topics that mattered to me vocationally, such as disability rights and religion, as well as panels centered on “careers outside of the academy.” The scholars and other attendees I interacted with were particularly gracious to me, and I was able brainstorm with them ways to nurture and grow these interests and desires in creative ways for the next step in my vocational journey. My trip reiterated to me even more how there are so many ways to live a life – and how I can bring my full self to almost any “job,” if I am intentional and open about this pursuit. I am now confident in my ability to “live into” the questions of how to pursue meaningful purpose and action while dedicating myself to a community-minded life.”

Michala Sullivan (2015): "Prior to attending Millsaps I had the opportunity to serve with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). It set me on a path of living an intentional and meaningful life, but it wasn't until I began my minor ... that I fully understood what taking a risk like AmeriCorps had done for me. Having the time to question and investigate what vocational discernment is gave me a foundation for understanding my purpose in life, as well as that of others that I have met along the way. Taking a pilgrimage back to Colorado, where I first began my AmeriCorps journey, was humbling and eye opening. To be able to retrace my steps from the time I began there to where I am today 6 years later gave purpose to these years, and also hope and motivation to continue to live an active and community-centered life."

Merrit Corrigan (2015): "E.B. White once wrote: 'New York is to the nation what the white[-painted] church [building] is to the village -- the visible symbol of aspiration and faith, the white plume saying the way is up.' As I walked the steps White once took in his beloved city, I felt that overwhelming optimism and sense of beauty in humanity that White also noted. Surrounded by people but alone in my thoughts, I felt the depth of my dreams and power in knowing that those around me were there to realize their own. New York is a city of risk-takers and creatives, of millions of people sharing the same sidewalks but walking very different paths. I felt a sense of freedom with each step in my urban pilgrimage, thinking about who has stood there before me and where my next turn might be. I recited no prayer nor participated in any religious ritual, but New York instilled a renewed sense of guidance and purpose for me, 'the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled."

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